Bitcoin bears ramp up bets virtual currency will fall
Short interest on Bitfinex has surpassed long interest for the first time since February
Bets that the bitcoin price
will fall have surpassed bets that it will rise for the first time since February on one of the world’s largest digital currency exchanges, stoking contrarian speculation that the digital currency could be headed for a new all-time high.
Open short interest on Bitfinex surpassed long interest on Thursday for the first time since February. The last time shorts eclipsed longs, the bitcoin price gained nearly $300 over the following three weeks, rising from $993 on Feb 13 to an all-time high of $1,285. Bitfinex, a top digital currency exchange by trading volume, is also one of only a handful to allow customers to trade on margin.
In financial markets,
short interest is sometimes viewed as a contrarian indicator because it leaves assets vulnerable to what’s known as a short squeeze. In a short squeeze, investors who bet against the asset are forced to buy it back to close out their positions at a loss, causing the price to move sharply in the other direction.
The buildup in shorts “proves that the bitcoin scaling debate isn’t over yet,” said Chris Dannen, a founding partner at Iterative Instinct, a small New York-based private-equity fund that trades crypto-assets. Dannen was referring to a rift in the bitcoin community over how to upgrade bitcoin’s software to allow the network to process transactions more quickly and efficiently.
That debate has quieted down in recent weeks as bitcoin miners have backed away from a controversial proposal called bitcoin unlimited that would’ve raised the limit on the amount of transaction data can be stored in each block of the bitcoin blockchain. Investors feared that, if support for the proposal passed a certain threshold, but fell short of unanimous adoption, it could split the network into two different coins.
Amith Nirgunarthy, director of marketing and high net-worth partnerships at Bitcoin IRA, was reluctant to read too much into the shift in positioning. “There’s been a lot of good news in the cryptocurrency space as of late,” he said. Earlier this week, Blockchain Capital, a venture fund focused on blockchain initiatives, closed its $10 million initial coin offering—the first of its kind in the U.S.—after just six hours. A blockchain is a decentralized, cryptographically secured ledger that powers digital currencies like bitcoin. The bitcoin BTCUSD, +0.45% price retreated on Thursday after touching its highest level in three weeks. One coin was recently trading at $1,165.